What about those pesky, ridiculous “no guns” or “no weapons” signs posted at restaurants, bars or other businesses? What are the laws regarding them and what can we do about them?
First, remember that Wisconsin is 49th of 50 states to get concealed carry. There is a learning curve. Illinois now has concealed carry, but has 168 pages of regulations and getting a permit there requires 16 hours of training! Concealed carry has been greatly effective in reducing violent crime because criminals fear armed citizens more than cops (and there are very few cops, especially when you need one right now!) Criminals love disarmed citizens, as it makes their jobs so much easier and safer.
Second, businesses that post such signs are setting themselves up for liability issues, according to state law as posted on the WI Dept. of Justice website and taught in our class.
Businesses that do NOT post can’t be held liable for incidents that happen with permit holders. Click here to read it for yourself or read below.
Wisconsin’s concealed carry law does not exempt individual license holders from civil liability for their actions. You could be sued and found liable for property damage, injury, or deaths caused by your actions.
The only liability protection provided by Wisconsin statute is for the following actors: (footnote 29)
• A person who does not prohibit an individual from carrying a concealed weapon on property that the person owns or occupies is immune from any liability arising from his or her decision.
• An employer who does not prohibit one or more employees from carrying a concealed weapon is immune from any liability arising from that decision.
• A person providing a firearms training course in good faith is immune from liability from any act or omission related to the course if the course is one of the courses listed in statute.
Wis. Stat. § 895.62 also affects liability in certain situations, and is shown in Appendix F.
However, even with these statutory provisions, there may be circumstances where the actors described may be exposed to liability. A discussion of such situations is beyond the scope of this course.
29 Wis. Stat. § 175.60(21)(b)-(d).
There are two reasons why no business or person should post such signs at their restaurant, bar or workplace, including such places as a hospital:
1. When someone sees the “no guns” or “no weapons” sign, there is a reasonable expectation of safety (if you make the absurd assumption that anyone obeys this sign, including crazed killers or those criminals intent on homicide, robbery, etc.) A person bringing his or her family to a restaurant with such a sign could argue that they assumed they would be safe. If a crime then occurs that leaves that person or a member of his family injured or killed, clearly there is no state statute protecting the business from being sued. But if the business does NOT post this sign, there is a state statute protecting the business from a lawsuit.
2. When a person carrying concealed sees such a sign and then returns to his car to leave his handgun behind because of that sign, if this person (or someone else who might be protected by this person) is then injured or killed, clearly he or she has the right to sue, arguing that the sign forced him or her to return his handgun to the car to comply with the sign and the law, thereby leaving him unprotected and vulnerable to attack. State statute would support his lawsuit as shown above.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin has advised its members of this same liability to posting bars and restaurants with “no guns” signs. Click here for the link.
The Tavern League puts it this way after a discussion about the law’s protection for businesses that do not post such signs:
An open letter to businesses/employers who post “no guns” or “no weapons” signs:
As a business owner, you value certain American principles of capitalism, profits and the idea that in our great nation, you can start out with an idea and a building, work hard and make a living doing so. And you want to protect your investment from legal snarls, while certainly avoiding thefts and robberies.
Years ago, some restaurants would offer police officers free meals or free coffee in order to encourage them to frequent their businesses. Why? Because their presence was a deterrent to crime, and that few dollars of free food was a great investment in protection.
Today, most cops are not allowed to accept such free offers, but the presence of armed officers and citizens is equally a deterrent to crime. In fact, if you look up the effects of armed concealed carry holders on crime rates, you will see that criminals do fear armed citizens as much as, and even more than, armed citizens. Please read John Lott’s landmark book, “More Guns, Less Crime.” A firearm is used defensively about 2.5 million times per year in the United States, according to criminalist Dr. Gary Kleck, and in 97 percent of those cases, no shot is fired! The mere presence of a firearm persuades the criminal to give up or flee.
Citizens have as much right to carry a handgun for personal protection of themselves and their families as your business has a right to make a profit from customers. If you don’t make a profit, you eventually fold and your employees lose their jobs. If citizens don’t carry concealed handguns, some of them eventually are shot, raped, robbed and murdered by armed criminals. It is a fact of life and happens every single day.
Your “no weapons” signs tell me—your honest customer—that you don’t trust me. Because I choose to defend myself, silently and without visible fanfare, you want to punish me. You make me unwelcome in your business. You tell me that I do not have a right to defend myself and my family at all times, because I must suspend my right in your business.
Can you please tell me why? Is it because you think my gun is a threat? No, my gun is not a threat, because I have trained to use it, just as a police officer has trained to use his. I have paid money to get my concealed carry permit. The state has run a records check on me. I have been approved by the state to carry a gun. I have invested time, effort and money to be safe and responsible. I love my family enough to be prepared to defend them, and I’m there to defend innocent bystanders from criminals, too. But your signs will have no effect on criminals. By definition, criminals don’t obey laws, and if you think they will obey your signs, you are only kidding yourself. Your signs make criminals laugh. Such signs make their job much easier, because they know they will meet no law-abiding armed citizens in such places.
I like your products and services. I ate or shopped here before I had the right to carry a handgun, and still like your food, clothing and other products and services. But now you make me choose. Should I shop where I’m really not wanted, or should I shop elsewhere? Would you consider posting a sign that says “No minorities” or “No disabled people”? No, you wouldn’t. But because I choose to carry a handgun, you want me to leave.
I want to stay, but now I have to return my gun to my car, where I must lock it up and hope it isn’t stolen. This gun could save my life, your life or the life of a customer, but it does no good in my car.
Now that you have disarmed me with your sign, are you ready to protect me? I hope so, because in order for me to obey the letter of the law, I have to stow my gun elsewhere. And this is where your liability comes in. If something happens to me or my family while I’m in your business, I have no choice but to sue you.
This is why the Wisconsin Tavern League advises its members to avoid posting such signs. Please go to their website and look it up. This is also why Wisconsin wrote this into the concealed carry law. Please read this carefully:
The only liability protection provided by Wisconsin statute is for the following actors:
a concealed weapon is immune from any liability arising from that decision.
from liability from any act or omission related to the course if the course is one
of the courses listed in statute.
Wis. Stat. § 895.62 also affects liability in certain situations, and is shown in
Appendix E. (page 36 of the WI Dept. of Justice concealed carry student guide).
So those who don’t post a sign can’t be held liable, but those who do post a sign certainly increase their liability of being sued, and certainly make it much harder for honest citizens to defend themselves.
Some gun owners and concealed carry permit holders will choose to simply avoid your business. A website dedicated to showing citizens who doesn’t permit guns inside is flourishing. Pennsylvania gun owners came up with this simple sign:
I have not yet reached the point where I will simply take my business elsewhere, because I like your products and services, and want to keep shopping here. I also think you are a reasonable business owner who values American freedoms above all else, and can appreciate the right to defend one’s own self and his or her family—a freedom that pre-dates the U.S. constitution.
Would you please consider taking your “no weapons” sign down? All we ask is that you apply common sense to this situation. Do you believe your sign will stop criminals from carrying weapons? Do you think increasing your civil liability is worth keeping legally owned guns out of the hands of your paying customers while they shop in your store?
Thanks for your kind consideration. I appreciate your willingness to listen to reason and common sense. Your armed customers await your thoughtful decision, which we trust will be based on facts and not emotions.
Owner and Chief Instructor
Wolf River Concealed Carry LLC
New London, WI